Typing in different languages on the iPad

Writing in another language on your iPad is as easy as selecting the appropriate keyboard. From the Settings App go to General -> Keyboard -> Keyboards and select the “Add New Keyboard…” option.

When more than one keyboard has been added, a globe symbol appears to the left of the space bar in the keyboard. Tap the globe to alternate between international keyboards or keep this button pressed down to select the keyboard from the pop-up list.

Many keyboards have additional hidden keys. To access these characters hold down a key on the keyboard and variations of that letter will appear. For example, holding down the letter A on the keyboard brings up 8 different options.

With iOS 6 the iPad provides keyboard support for the following languages: English, Arabic, Bulgarian, Catalan, Cherokee, Chinese, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Estonian, Finnish, Flemish, French, German, Greek, Hawaiian, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Icelandic, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Latvian, Lithuanian, Macedonian, Malay, Norwegian, Polish, Portugese, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Slovak, Spanish, Swedish, Thai, Tibetan, Turkish, Ukranian and Vietnamese.

So what happens if you need to access an accented character not included in the above list of languages? The good news is that the iPad has built-in support for the Unicode standard (over 100,000 characters) and most of these characters and glyphs can be used in any iOS App where text input is allowed. eg. Safari Web, Mail, Notes, Pages, Keynote, Reminders, Calendar… The tricky bit is to find a way to input these special characters into your App, because currently it is not possible to create your own customized iOS keyboard.

One workaround is to use an App such as Unicode Pad which gives you direct access to all of the Unicode character sets. “Unicode Pad” also has its own built-in notepad allowing you to compose your entire string of special characters before copying and pasting to another App.

Take for example the following Livonian accented character (letter A with diaeresis and macron):

Since the Livonian language is not offered as a selectable keyboard option we can use “Unicode Pad” to locate, copy and then paste into our writing App.

If we were to use this accented A character repeatedly another option is to create a shortcut. From the Settings App go to General > Keyboard and select the “Add New Shortcut…” option. Paste the character into the Phrase section and select a unique combination of letters, eg. “aa” to define the shortcut. The next time you write “aa” followed by the spacebar the accented A character will be automatically inserted into the text.

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September 1, 2013

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